Environment: formal and non-formal
Level: primary school, secondary school
The Mediation Centre and Mediation Training Centre (CMFM in French) has been developing mediation in France since 1984. They first started in the penal framework as they created penal mediation for the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Department, and then in a social and educational framework. The CMFM is very involved in developing mediation as an instrument of peace, especially for youths. It is taking part in UNESCO’s inter-regional programme for ‘a culture of peace and non-violence in educational institutions’ , to which the Edouard Vaillant Secondary School in Gennevilliers is affiliated. Jacqueline Morineau, Head of The Mediation Training Centre, has written the text contained in this article.
A monitor, Sylviane, and a 4th year pupil, Elisabeth, insulted each other. S. had asked E. to leave the study room perhaps a little abruptly. E. took it badly and reacted with verbal violence especially as there were fellow pupils at the scene.
S. and E. admit that they went too far in what they said. As for S., after six hours of monitoring she had run out of patience. She admits that the tone she used could have appeared aggressive to E. and that the word ‘ nuisance ’ that she used had been too much for her. E. explains that she felt humiliated and was at a loss for words. All she could think of doing was to insult S.
E. claims the monitors are virtually the only adults at the school that she can talk to on a more personal level. This is important to her. She was disappointed to have got off on the wrong foot with S. at the start of the year. Indeed, the day before, the first day back, she had been reprimanded by S. and had concluded that she would not be able to get along with her.
From that moment on, S. had felt E. looked at her provocatively, which did not encourage her to adopt a positive attitude towards her. A pattern was established : E. was convinced S. ‘had it in for her’ and there were more and more incidents between them.
S. explains that she has to make sure the rules are respected, she has duties. As a result she has to exercise authority, which she does not enjoy. Dialogue is very important to her and her function often deprives her of this, which makes her feel isolated.
Neither of them felt respected; they both felt humiliated and talk about the same thing : their need to relate to others, for dialogue, sharing and mutual respect.
They each discover the other as an individual, beyond the roles they play. Trust is vital for both. As for E., she wants to be recognised in her desire to change, to do better. As for S., she needs to ‘meet’ S. as a person and not merely as a pupil and would like the same in return, in other words, to be recognised as an individual and not simply as a monitor.
E. repeats that she means no harm and that insults are hurtful. She says that if she had been on the receiving end of the insults she threw at S. she would have reacted violently, she would have hit her.
What was missing for both of them was a time and a place to express how they felt and establish dialogue. Just after the incident, each wanted to talk to the other as they needed to express how humiliated they felt and recover their dignity.
At the end of the mediation session, they parted, feeling pacified and keen not to find themselves in a similar situation again. They were both able to formulate their fundamental request, which was basically the same : dialogue, sharing, respect and recognition as an individual.
Why use mediation at school?
Because the future for young people is more and more uncertain and violence in schools is reaching alarming proportions, new solutions are being sought. The cry for help from youths must be heard, especially as violence is beginning younger, as early 7 or 8 years old. It is true that the world cannot exist without order, yet the means we use to enforce it seem out of date. The authority/submission relationship seems to be less and less effective. We need to find a new language which can be heard by all, as well as a new space and time in which to share this language.
This is what mediation provides - another place, another time and another language. Any hurt or suffering must be recognised and mediation allows this recognition to take place, which will trigger a process of evolution through expression aided by mediators. Mediators are intermediaries
whose role is to facilitate an individual’s encounter with him/herself and trace the origin of a conflict in order to understand how and why there is disagreement and deterioration of the relations between two or several people.
While mediation is a true self-transformation and conflict transformation process, training in mediation is a form of citizenship education. It is about preparing third millennium citizens of the world and developing a culture of peace.
The aim is indeed to provide citizenship education for all. School pupils will be able to follow training in mediation at primary school and take it further at secondary school. These training sessions, lasting one hour per week, will gradually become forums for listening and sharing as the pupil moves through the school system. As for the training of adults, this will be conducted on a voluntary basis, and is aimed at teachers as well as people involved in school life (those running schools, doctors, nurses, monitors and educators as well as parents. The course is divided into five 2-day sessions throughout the school year and is conducted in groups of 12. The final stage is to establish an inter-school network of mediators.
A mediation locale, run by mediators from the school or network, will be used to solve all latent or declared conflicts between adult and pupil, pupil and pupil, or adult and adult. The courses will take place in 1 to 2-hour sessions every week or every fortnight. Preference should be given to younger pupils (1st and 2nd year) and where possible in primary schools (10 year-olds).
Creation of a mediation centre
When conflict erupts between two people, the ability to talk about oneself, what one feels, rather than blaming the other, allows one to establish a genuine exchange that may well lead to a solution which is not imposed by a third party and is therefore more readily acceptable. To do this, one need only create a suitable place, a living, welcoming space to which no one is afraid to come. Quite the opposite!
This mediation centre will welcome pupils in difficulty or in conflict with another pupil or with an adult and in this case could welcome them together if possible on a daily basis. If the case is serious the first interview may lead to a mediation session later on.
The mediators will have played a role as catalysts facilitating dialogue. They will have detected what is left unsaid behind what is said, helping the antagonists become aware of a reality they had not imagined existed. Above all they will have helped re-establish communication.
What the Trainees have to say
‘It’s important to practise listening non-judgementally. We are usually a little biased! This is something new.’
‘Now, I pay as much attention to the person aggressing as to the person being aggressed. This is new for me. It’s important to hear the aggressors side too; he/she has expressed violence through actions but if we ask what he/she felt and establish dialogue, that may alter the future.’
Five two-day courses were held during the 97/98 school year. These courses were geared towards practical experience in order to help the trainees discover the mechanisms that cause inter-personal conflict for themselves, and to learn to transform them so as to improve the relationships between people when conflict arises. Through listening exercises and simulated mediation sessions in the form of role-play, trainees can gain first hand experience of antagonistic relations . Mediation is thus experienced in all its phases and in each of its functions. There is a preparation session beforehand, and the exercise is followed by analysis.
By the end of the third training course, the trainees will have formed a first team of mediators and had a chance to work in a mediation centre carrying out interviews. They will also be mediators themselves and will be working on developing the ‘mediation at school’ web pages, and (after other specialised training courses) will be able to become trainers for adults.
For further information you can contact:
Centre de Médiation et de Formation à la Médiation
24 rue Tournefort
Tel: (33-0) 1 47 07 57 15
Collège Edouard Vaillant
66 rue Henri Barbusse
Tel: (33-0) 1 41 21 42 10
Fax: (33-0) 1 41 21 42 19
Contact: Diane Nallet principal adjoint
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